Wednesday, 11 May 2016

A new perspective

In the first of his monthly blogs, CIBSE President John Field will introduce the primary theme of his Presidency. John will write a blog every month on a variety of topics; encompassing news, views and opinion, that will lend an insight into life at the top of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers.

Last week I was given the tremendous honour of being inducted as President of CIBSE by past-President Nick Mead, whose thoughts you have been reading on this blog for the past year. Those who were in the audience at our AGM at the Royal Society will have heard me use my inaugural speech to draw attention to a few issues that are of importance to me, and will be addressed during my term in office (and if you didn’t, a video of it is above!).

In my first blog, I would like to draw further attention one particular issue in action, and what I plan to do to address it.

You’ll likely be familiar with the ongoing discussion over what is to be done about the Palace of Westminster, the world famous home of the UK’s Houses of Parliament, which is currently sinking into the ground – and that’s not the worst of its problems. Having put off decisions to operate on the building’s many faults over the last decade due to the political un-palatability of spending billions on Government buildings, problems have been allowed to mount including; a rats nest of outdated wiring, damp, asbestos, leaky pipes and failing stonework.

The Palace of Westminster is slowly falling apart
As part of the Government’s approach to carrying out the restoration, the Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster heard evidence from professional bodies including my predecessor Nick Mead as President of CIBSE, who did a terrific job of pressing the benefits of a partial or total decant of MPs to allow for a shorter and cheaper refit.

Rather than working on an active building with the problems this entails; health and safety around live wires, whole sections without power and water for days, and the extra time required to ensure work does not endanger vital systems, MPs should be moved elsewhere on the estate during works to save as much as 20 years and £3bn.

It is clear that moving as many MPs from Parliament during the works is preferable, safer, cheaper, easier and faster, and yet there are still reports in the press that suggest the Government will argue for an extended 32 year rolling programme of maintenance with very high cost – because such disruption spreads the cost and won’t leave as big an annual hole in the balance sheet. A £5.7bn cost over 32 years of hell (with MPs still working in Westminster) to do a mediocre job is politically acceptable; £3.5bn for a relatively fast and much more effective job (with MPs decanted) is not acceptable.

Past-President Nick Mead gives evidence in Parliament
A stellar cast of industry-leading bodies assembled in Westminster that day to give evidence to the committee; including CIBSE, RIBA, RICS and ICE – evidence that it appears that the Government is doing its best to ignore. This brings me to the main point behind my inaugural speech: CIBSE has an unrivalled set of expertise on building services, and we should be the voice of the industry that kicks up a fuss!

Building services should be seen as something that is at the heart of modern-day life – up there with healthcare, the legal professions and banking. People spend 94% of their life inside buildings and transport – they live, work, eat and sleep in them. They keep people alive, healthy and safe, and they also hold the key to solving one of the great issues of our time in climate change.

Buildings are behind nearly half of the UK’s CO2 emissions, and up to 70% of the electricity we generate is used by them – often from less than clean sources. We as an industry have done some incredible things with buildings since 1899 when the Institution of Heating & Ventilating Engineers first met, but a lot of our work is done behind closed doors and is never even noticed by the vast majority of people when it is done right.

The Ideal Home solar house that John helped design and commission. Ground-breaking in 1981!
What I will aim to do during my Presidency is carry forward that aim of raising the industry’s profile, which will include kicking up a fuss if needs be when we see something that isn’t right from a building performance standpoint – whether that’s in the industry, in the media or even in political circles. The incredible initiatives and achievements we carry out every day are vital to the present and future of the world and are inspiring, but we can only spread that inspiration to students, politicians, other professions and the public at large if we find our voice, and share it with the world.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

New year, new start

Firstly a Happy New Year to you all and trust you had a good Christmas.

Well it’s all been very busy couple of months! With a bit of a lull over the Christmas period, I’ve finally been able to collect my thoughts into the blog. The 3rd and 4th of November saw the CIBSE Building Performance Conference and Exhibition at the QE2 centre in London, and extra special for me to be attending as President.

This year’s Conference was again an unqualified success, with 48% more attendees, double the number of exhibitors and a bigger splash on social media than last year. This was unsurprising given the quality of the presentations and debates that we saw during the two days, including some cutting edge knowledge on security and unique collaboration with disciplines outside engineering on comfort and energy efficiency.

Next was the SoPHE dinner in Kensington on the Thursday which was as always a great night, and quickly followed by the SoPHE Awards, which demonstrated inspiring practical uses of engineering principles. This year’s winner of the SoPHE Young Engineer’s Award, which involved using the Moringa tree to provide clean water and jobs in Liberia, was a perfect demonstration of how a career path in engineering can have a world-changing impact.

The SoPHE award winners collect their certificates
I was in Bristol next for the Society of Public Architecture, Construction, Engineering and Surveying (SPACES) dinner.  We have started an alliance with this group and the Patrons to enable knowledge sharing, CPD attendance and general collaboration with the Public Sector – something that is sorely needed if we are to spread the message of collaboration to its widest.

Tuesday 10th was Lunch at IMechE with Presidents from IMechE, SoE, IChemE and IMEST to discuss more collaboration with the Institutions and education. The aim being to try and get engineering and science back into the curriculum in schools, which is crucial to the aim of setting up the next generation of STEM workers.

Wednesday was the IETs presidential address. Held at the Mermaid centre in London. IETs president Naomi Climer introduced a captivating address entitled Bright Future with scattered cloud. Using her experience from Television and Media she addressed the future of technology in our industry – this was especially timely, given the focus on technology on the first day of the Conference, and helped put into perspective what we had learned about the opportunities and risks from our speakers.

48% more attendees queue for the start of Conference
Friday 13th may not be the most auspicious of days, but it also meant a BSRIA briefing that brings many in the industry together, and was an excellent opportunity to reflect on another year of change in Building Services.

I also had the opportunity to see the work of some fascinating guest speakers over the last two months. The IMechE Presidential event was a great evening with an interesting view on design technology from Jaguar/Land Rover chief designer. While on the 2nd of December I attended the iTree Eco project report – Valuing London’s Urban Forest - issued at the House of Lords.

I didn’t quite know what to expect but a fascinating insight into the trees in London and the overwhelming importance they play in maintaining the environment. We are all aware of how trees balance nature with human intrusion but this report is fascinating and the depth of the study is very intense, worth a look if you get a chance

Giving the Presidential address at CIBSE Conference and Exhibition
The 4th December saw an early flight to Dublin with one of the most enjoyable events of the year. At nearly 500 guests, the Ireland region always makes everyone very welcome with a great lunch, good hospitality and, this year, excellent entertainment! Speaking of great lunches, Past Presidents Lunches are always good to meet up old colleagues from industry and the Institution. I was looking forward to attending the latest meeting on the 10th, and was not disappointed by the “debate” on the challenges of the industry and CIBSE, which was held in good humour.

On the Imtech front, well, all is well there with them seeing new projects coming through the door. Unfortunately, I will not be there to help, as I left the business at Christmas to seek new opportunities in my career. I wish them all the best for 2016 and look forward to catching up with them at the awards dinner in February where they are headline sponsors.

Again, I hope you all had a Happy Christmas and have a prosperous New Year

Monday, 9 November 2015

The busy season

Hi, well October is now over and we are getting very close to Christmas and the festivities! October has been a great month with so much happening.

The 8th October started with a lunch at IMechE with the president Professor Richard Folkson, the ASHRAE President David Underwood, the chief executives and myself. Discussions focused very much around collaboration and a unified voice to government, better collaboration in Universities and education of engineering and science in the schools.

The evening saw the Employer of the Year award and the Graduate of the Year award. Congratulations go to SDS who not only won the mid size company award but the overall award. The entries were outstanding as usual but SDS showed great commitment to their programme and staff.

The YEN awards were excellent with it being the 20th Anniversary award and we had the pleasure of Kevin Mitrchell of Buro Haoppold who joined us from Dubai who was the first winner. Other previous winners attended to celebrate the award to Ryan Rodrigues who will attend the ASHRAE winter conference in Orlando. Runners up also received a cheque from the Rumford club.

Presenting the Employer of the Year prize to SDS at the Young Engineers Awards

The 9th saw a full day with a Presidents breakfast. CIBSE/ASHRAE liaison meeting Council and the Presidents Dinner, all held at the Institute of General Practioners in Euston Square. CIBSE/ASHRAE relations go from strength to strength thanks from amazing hard work by Tim Dwyer , the new Council meeting format with the President Elect being the board liaision are working well and the close of the day with the President dinner was excellent. 

At the dinner, I present individual awards to members who have done outstanding work for the Institution. Different from so many awards in our industry, I feel this are more personal being for individuals who go beyond the norm to support CIBSE.

This years awards were:

  •  Hays Building Services President’s prize: Kaitlin Allen from Nottingham University

The CIBSE Undergraduate Award sponsored by Hays Building Services has been in existence for over 20 years. It is designed to encourage students to develop their potential and aim for excellence.  It is awarded to students in their final year of a building services course accredited by CIBSE recognising their academic achievements at the end of their course of study. 

Kaitlin studied for a MEng in Architectural and Environmental Design at the University of Nottingham and won with her final year project entitled ‘Smart windows – A window for dynamic control.’ 

In addition we also present a trophy to a representative of the university as acknowledgement of its achievement.  Dr Yupeng Wu is here to receive the trophy.

  •  The Happold Brilliant Award Royal School of Military Engineering (RSME)

This is an annual award to recognise excellence in the teaching of building services engineering. The trophy was received by Lieutenant Colonel Steve Lumley on behalf of the University.

  • Ken Dale Travel Bursary Luke Ramsay

Luke Ramsey
The Ken Dale Travel Bursary, now in its seventh year, is made possible by the kind donation of the family of the late Ken Dale, a past President of the Institution of Heating and Ventilating and an Honorary Fellow of CIBSE.  The Bursary makes awards available to CIBSE members at the development stage of their career who wish to spend three to four weeks outside their own country researching aspects connected to their field of work and which will benefit CIBSE, their employer, their clients and the profession of building services engineering.  

Luke Ramsay from Julie’s Bicycle investigated ‘Low carbon cooling in data-centres: barriers and opportunities’ by visiting these various data centres, this helped Luke to begin to understand how data centres can reduce their carbon footprint.
Luke visited various locations across North America, including Canada, Dubai, Jakarta and Singapore. 

  • Technical Awards 

The Institution will be making two awards for technical papers published in the Building Services Engineering Research & Technology.

The awards this year are:  

  • The Napier Shaw Bronze Medal 

Awarded for the most highly rated paper published in BSER&T in the year relating to research. "Building tight – ventilating right? How are new air tightness standards affecting indoor air quality in dwellings?” Authors - Stirling Howieson, Tim Sharpe and Paul Farren 

  • The Carter Bronze Medal 

Awarded for the most highly rated paper published in BSER&T in the year relating to application and development. ‘ A review on predicted mean vote and adaptive thermal comfort models’ Authors – Yau Yat Huang and Chew Bee Teng 

  • CIBSE Medals 

Silver Medal presented to Christopher Northey citation being read by Steve Vaughan 

Silver Medal presented to Kevin Kelly citation being read by David Doherty

Silver Medal is presented to John Anderson the citation being read by Gerard Hosford

On the 15th I attended the B&ES Indoor air quality meeting which I will be separately blogging on, so any comments would be appreciated.

Saturday 24th October was the YEN Annual Ball in Birmingham. The Council House Banqueting Suite supplied a fantastic backdrop for the Gatsby themed evening which saw around 150 guests, many of who were dressed accordingly. 

The raffle for the evening raised £1000 which was for the Acorns Children Hospice which offers respite for parents of sick and disabled children. A video of Josh’s story was shown depicting the great works of this charity.

Unfortunately the day job prevented me getting to the Patrons meeting in Leeds. Held with the support of the Yorkshire region, the meeting was at Leeds Beckett University. Along with a tour of the university, there was a very electrical theme with Apollo lighting, DALI Schneider and SLL.
The Imtech world is still very busy and I look forward to seeing a tender with a realistic budget! 

Until next month

Friday, 16 October 2015

Life behind the scenes

Well, it appears the summer vacations are now truly over, we are in the run up to Christmas (just over 12 weeks) and life continues at 100mph.

It has been a great month at CIBSE with all the in house meetings and public events. In the background, HQ is on the go with meetings covering such a wide and diverse range of issues that we seldom give them credit for. Knowledge, finance, technical, membership etc. etc. are constantly being delivered, reviewed, and updated to ensure the intricate clock keeps ticking. As a president, we only tend to cover the perimeter of many of the ongoing issues but the bits I have been involved in have been fascinating and surprising.

Where do we go with CEnv? Should Universities cover Heritage issues on their courses? Where do we stand on apprentices? Where do we tie into other Professional Bodies? The list goes on over several hundred e-mails. All demanding an answer and needing to be prioritised to ensure nothing critical falls by the side. 

CIBSE HQ: A hive of activity

Then there are the formal bits. The B&ES president’s lunch was interesting, particularly as it is the contracting companies that are members and the lunch provided an insight into their viewpoint of the industry and the constraints and the difficulties in tendering in the current market. The industry is suffering from many projects that are, in the current market, not affordable to the client, and so “Value Engineering” (sometimes called Vandal Engineering) becomes a major driver. This is not only causing huge cost to the contractor and the original consultant but pushing programmes to very difficult limits. Something that needs to be addressed for the future.

I had a great lunch with the Society Chairs and Presidents as well this month. All the Societies (SLL, SoPHE, SFE and ILEVE) are all very focused and keen to offer a varied and interesting agenda for the coming year. October 1st saw the very successful and popular SLL “Night of Heritage light which illuminated nine UNESCO world heritage sites across the UK. (See

This month also saw the inauguration of the new RIBA president, Jane Duncan, who took over from Stephen Hodder. This was celebrated at the Presidents Fundraising dinner on the 16th in Portland Place.

Guide D was launched at a well-attended function in Northampton. Being a services engineer by background, I was interested to see so many issues now included in the Guide relevant to M&E services, well worth a look. I was also honoured to present an Honorary Fellowship to Peter Day for all his outstanding work on the Guide over the years and other much valued support to the Institution.
On the matter of support to CIBSE, it was also an honour to see Peter Caplehorn being presented as Honorary Member to CIAT at their lunch at the Savoy.

Setting up at Blaenavon ahead of the Night of Heritage Light, ©James Jones
Peter is not only a long-standing personal friend and colleague but has been a great supporter of CIBSE, especially in his new role as Policy Director for The Construction Products Association. He has also been involved in many industry and government programmes, particularly on the technical and health and safety side of the industry.  Peter is the deputy chair of the Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC) and currently chairs the British Standards Institution’s strategic committee for construction.  His main focus recently has been the new CDM Regulations, application of Building Information Modelling (“BIM”) within construction regulations and future building regulations. Great to see Architecture and Services coming together. 

With regards to the day job, well that has settled down now and business is as usual carrying out a lot of VE on tenders, and looking at day to day issues on projects. We held one of our engineering forums this month and one topic was fuel cells. This is a surprising market that seems to be quietly progressing behind the scenes. Imtech are currently collaborating with CIBSE on a Micro CHP validation testing proposal with the University of St Andrews. Watch this space

Well that’s all folks and have a good October

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

School's out!

I hope everyone is well after the holiday season. This is always a difficult time for businesses, those who have to go away in school holiday time suffer the premiums that are demanded and those who don’t have to cover the panics that ensue. Staff numbers are always restricted through to the end September and before you know it half term is upon us. I fortunately managed to get a few days off but the weather had no mercy even for a President, so the “to-do list” is no shorter!

Winners of the 2014 Young Engineers Awards
My CIBSE life might have appeared quiet through August, but we have been working hard behind the scenes on our awards. Having seen the judging for the employer of the year and the undergraduate of the year in this year's Young Engineers Awards, competition is as fierce as ever following record numbers of entries for both. We also saw the award of two other medals - the Napier Shaw and Carter Bronze Medals - to teams from Strathclyde and Malaysia Universities respectively, as well as the Ken Dale Travel Bursary. A glittering month!

On the 18th, I was joined by John, Cathie, Paddy and Clare for lunch at BSRIA. Here we met several members of BSRIA to discuss the industry and areas of collaboration. Lunch was followed by a very interesting tour of the Facilities at Bracknell.

As for the business side, well what can I say. I’m sure many of you have seen the trade news of our Parent company Imtech NV who, as this blog goes out, is in administration. It has been an interesting couple of weeks seeing how the industry reacts to this sort of news but I am pleased to say that Imtech UK is business as usual.  We concluded a deal with the Private Equity firm Endless LLP which secures funding and a long term future for Imtech UK & Ireland as an independent business, safeguarding over 2,500 employees across the group.

Winners of the Napier Shaw Bronze Medal in 2012
We have been fortunate in that the issues in the business have been in Europe and not as a result of anything in the UK. However, the construction industry is very difficult in the UK with tight fees and margins, tight programmes and often difficult payment plans. As an industry we need to look at this more closely and I know many of the Professional bodies have raised this. Maybe another area for collaboration!

Anyway, September is full steam ahead. Apart from the usual activities in CIBSE, there is Nominations, B&ES presidents lunch, meeting of the societies, HKIE reception, Guide D launch and the CIAT luncheon. Oh, and there is the day job! Have a good September.

Friday, 7 August 2015

The 139 days of Christmas

With half the calendar gone, it’s getting towards that time of year when you stop thinking of 2015 as the New Year, and you start the run up to Christmas! Luckily for me, I've still got some of CIBSE’s biggest events to look forward to before I can even begin to think about the festive The Young Engineers Awards, the YEN Conference in Hong Kong and, of course, the CIBSE Conference and Exhibition.

Th fabulous view across London from the tower of Pimlico District Heating Undertaking
It seemed like the world was conspiring against us early in the month, to prevent the launch of our first-of-its-kind Heat Networks Code of Practice. First the Tube strike on the London Underground, and then a record-breaking heatwave, but building services engineers are made of sterner stuff and turned out to fill the sell-out event. A unique opportunity to get under the skin of the UK’s longest running heat network in Pimlico was followed by a really interesting event, which put the new Code in context – and set out how it will achieve its aims.

This wasn’t the only CIBSE launch of the month; I was also pleased to take part in the unveiling of the new Guide A at the grand surroundings of London’s Connaught Rooms. But one of CIBSE’s flagship Guides deserves no less of a reception, especially after nine years of work to bring it up to date in 2015. The consideration and work that went into producing this latest edition served to bring home the idea that all our wise words on building performance must actually bring results; it’s not a box-ticking exercise, it must actually improve spaces and cut emissions.

Myself, speaking at the launch of Guide A

I also had chance this month to make contact with several member institutions when I met their CEOs at the Institute of Directors for the SOJACES lunch. Aside from the opportunity to meet and share ideas we were also able to speak with our guest, the Government’s Chief Construction Adviser Peter Hansford, who was able to provide us with a great deal of insight into what lies ahead for the industry in the next few years.

Internally, it’s been all hands to the pumps in planning for the next 5 years as we try to implement CIBSE’s ‘Vision’. I'm extremely fortunate in having been elected President during such a momentous year in the Institution’s immediate future and, following the board meeting in May where we agreed what the Vision should be, we now need a strategy for how to achieve it. We are looking at five key areas in which to deliver change; Membership, Knowledge, Services and Building Performance, and hope to make these our key focuses going forwards.

Speaking of the future, the day job is busier than ever in preparation for holiday season. It’s the time of year when you look across the Channel at our European cousins with envy, and wonder if they've got a better idea shutting down for the summer. Then again, who would want to spend the summer fighting for space on the beach with the rest of the country? We've also got the last round of interviews for our 2015 Graduate intake. We've also had a bumper crop of top talent apply to our 2015 Graduate scheme, and it’s going to be incredibly hard to select the successful applicants from the final round of interviews!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

New horizons

CIBSE President Nick Mead reflects on a month of new projects for the Institution

The second month of my presidency has been marked by a real opportunity to get stuck into the nuts and bolts of running CIBSE, all around my day job too! I have attended several key governance meetings over the course of this month including the Council, the finance subcommittee and the nominations committee. All a reminder of the tremendous amount of work that goes into running an organisation as large and diverse as CIBSE.

I also had plenty of external meetings, building on the theme of collaboration that I hope will define my term as President. Round two of the ‘Three Presidents’ debate between myself and the presidents of RIBA and B&ES took place on the 22 June at RIBA’s offices in London, in a rather more confrontational ‘Question Time’ style than the last. Despite some disagreement over exactly what is holding buildings back (is it old hierarchies, increasing complexity or reluctance to change?) it was still clear that neither CIBSE nor any of the other organisations can improve building performance on their own.

M&G's Nina Reid presents at the Building Performance Awards 2016 launch

I also met with Greg Keeling of SPACES (Society for Public Architecture, Construction, Engineering and Surveying) to look at the potential for multidisciplinary collaboration in the Public Sector. Building performance stands to be an extremely important consideration for Public Sector architecture in the coming years, as squeezed budgets force every department to get the most out of all of their assets. The potential for building services engineers to work with architects to make considerable savings over the lives of public projects is an exciting area of the performance gap to work on.

And it’s building performance that has been coming to the fore time and again, in both my career and CIBSE roles. Most noticeably the increasingly poor specifications and confusion at the design stage of projects, which featured in my discussions with RIBA President Stephen Hodder. Areas with names including ‘Stage D+’ and ‘Not quite Stage E’ are gradually creeping into project tenders, setting up the potential for confusion down the line when the finished buildings are tested against the specifications laid out in the design stage.

Keep an eye out for discussion around the issue over the next month, and in my next blog, as CIBSE embarks on another four weeks of activity on building performance – including last week’s launch of our first Code of Practise on Heat Networks and next week’s launch of Guide A on Environmental Design. It’s always exciting to take part in a site visit, and the opportunity to take a peek at Pimlico District Heating Undertaking is one of the more unique!

I’ve now got dates booked into the calendar as far as June 2016, but undoubtedly one of the events I’m most looking forward to is the Building Performance Awards. Last year’s Carbon Champion’s M&G put forward an impressive display at the launch event and we’re having a big re-vamp this year to make the awards more inclusive. Expect to see a few surprises and a few winners who might not have been recognised under the old format!